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July 25, 2013

Otsego County Fair to open Tuesday

(Continued)

Grandstand entertainment includes the K-F Rodeo on Wednesday, demo derbies on Thursday and again at 1 and 6 p.m. on Sunday, a tractor pull on Friday and truck pulls on Saturday. The fair concludes on Sunday.

According to organizers, the fair prides itself in remaining a largely old time agricultural and family-friendly event, while maintaining a practical side with some modern features in order to pay the bills.

Watson was a native of Plymouth, Mass. He originated the Pittsfield Fair in 1811 in the western part of that state. Apparently he was discouraged with the lack of cooperation he received there, and moved to Albany around 1817. Somehow he got connected with two Otsego County residents who were planning a first agricultural exhibition, and moved here to assist. He later moved on to help other counties organize their fairs, among his other entrepreneurial endeavors that included promoting the construction of the Erie Canal.

The first exhibition was held at the Presbyterian Church in Cooperstown on Tuesday, Oct. 14, 1817. The Otsego County Agricultural Society prospered for a few years but eventually the organization was abandoned. However, a legislative act was passed in 1841 that distributed $8,000 among the counties across New York for the promotion of agriculture. This served to reorganize Otsego and many other county societies that had become extinct.

The exhibition resumed that year, and was held in Cooperstown until 1852. That year a proposition was made to merge the agricultural society in Morris and adjoining towns with the county society. The fair was held in Morris that year and alternated with Cooperstown a few years.

Whether it was Cooperstown or Morris, the fair was popular. In 1855 it was growing apparent that the fairgrounds needed to be enlarged and the county society once again reorganized.

It was decided to select a permanent location for the exhibition. Cooperstown got the most votes by a majority of one. The 1856 exhibition took place near the end of Fair and Pioneer streets, near today’s Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital. A lease on that property expired in 1872 and the grounds were becoming increasingly inadequate for crowds and exhibitors.

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